Recording People in Public & Private Places – The Legal Ramifications.


We have all done it. We have been at events like office parties, conferences, corporate events, product launches, etc. recorded video and uploaded the footage for friends, colleagues, customers, and the world to see. However, when recording video footage in a public or private place there are a few factors you need to consider. Most people who are new to video are completely unaware of the permissions required when recording people in a public or private place and uploading the resulting video to a site like YouTube and Vimeo.

If you are using a video recording which contains another person’s image for your own personal and private use and is for a non-commercial purpose, you do not need the permission of the person.  But, and it’s a big but, if you make the video available on YouTube, Vimeo or any site a third party can watch it and is used in a commercial capacity, you must get permission from that person to use their image (if not it may infringe on their right to privacy and/or publicity). If you do not have their permission, even if they are a friend or colleague, they have every right to ask you to take the video down off the hosting site.


So what can you do?

The simplest thing you can do is to have a release or waiver forms at your disposal. Simply type “Video Release Form” into Google search and you will find plenty of examples of forms (which can be also printed but be carefully as this may also infringe on copyright laws! Argh). A video release form has been described by WebVideoZone as:

a simple contract that gives you legal permission to use the image of the person who has signed the form for commercial and non-commercial purposes. Having a signed release form can give you protection in the event an individual appearing in your video should later decide to sue you for using the image (e.g., for invasion of privacy or unfair use of their image.

When do you need to use a release form?

This really is a tricky subject and the laws with regards to personal image rights vary from country to country. However, if you plan to do any of the following in your next video, it is advisable to get a release form signed:

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  • Use a person’s image in your video for commercial purposes.
  • Record people in a public/private place such as a restaurant, florist, coffee shop, etc. You will also need permission from the owner of the location, as well as any members of the public who are interviewed or filmed.
  • If you are recording a corporate training video, product demonstration, customer testimonials, conference, etc., get the person presenting the video and any other participating members or audience to sign the form.

What should be contained in the Release form?

Make the release form as broad as possible, so you cover all bases. It should provide the video producer with full editing rights of all images and recordings. It should also include any information on the distribution and selling rights and must be dated and signed by both parties.

Do I always need a Release Form?

The simple answer is no, as there are some exceptions to the rule. If your video is solely a newsworthy event and involves shooting a crowded scene of people in a public area, you usually do not need a video release form from every person. As it is a public area, the “right to privacy” is generally overruled. However, it can be questionable what is and isn’t a newsworthy event.

If you are worried or unsure about the content contained in your Release form, I would advise consulting a legal media professional for further clarification.

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